From Panama to the Galapagos
The Galapagos, Peru, Ecuador and Panama are not normal backdrops for college studies. But at Henderson State University, the world’s the limit for biology majors. In what was the Henderson biology department’s 19th study trip abroad, current majors and alumni were joined last summer by some members of the Arkadelphia community for a 15-day excursion in South America.
“The trip followed a spring semester study abroad course that focused on the natural history of the Galapagos Islands and the history of the Inca Empire,” said Dr. James Engman, professor of biology and chair of the department. In Peru, the group visited Lima, Cusco, the Urubamba Valley, and Machu Picchu. The stay in Ecuador included Quito and the Galapagos.
“In the Galapagos, we had five days on our own private cruise ship and visited a number of different islands,” Engman said. “Wildlife in the Galapagos is characterized by a phenomenon known as ‘island tameness,’ having evolved in the absence of effective predators. Many species show no fear of humans, and it is possible to approach them very closely.”
Species encountered included: waved albatross; blue-footed, red-footed, and Nazca boobies; Galapagos sea lions; endemic marine and terrestrial iguanas; and giant tortoises. The group snorkeled at a number of sites in the Galapagos, where the water was a challenging 67 degrees.
In addition to the spectacular Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, the group visited other important Inca sites, including Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman, and the temple of the sun (Coricancha) in Cusco.
Later in the summer, Engman took a different group of biology students to Panama for the neotropical ecology class. This was the 10th year for the trip. The course includes a week of classes at the Simonson Biological Field Station at DeGray Lake near Arkadelphia, then three weeks of field work in Panama.
Students work in a lowland rainforest and high-elevation cloud forest, Engman said. They also work in marine systems in both the Caribbean and Pacific oceans. “We spend much of the time in primitive field conditions, often without electricity or running water,” he said. There were 12 students in the class this summer, including a Henderson international student from Panama, and a student who is studying biology at the University of Panama.
“Some of the wildlife we saw on the trip included three species of toucan, four species of monkeys, sharks, squid, octopus, humpback whales, capybara, sloths and coatimundis,” Engman said. “It was a fantastic group of students and an amazing trip.”
For more information about Henderson’s Department of Biology, please go to www.hsu.edu/biology, or contact Engman at firstname.lastname@example.org.